Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Weather Adaptations

Last night was my first ride in almost three weeks! My how the weather has changed! Cool weather is here to stay, but training continues. I hope to adapt to the conditions and continue to ride outdoors on all but the worst weather days. I know people from the great white north manage to survive (and ride) in far, far, far colder and drier conditions. Apparently it's something you "get used to". This is the first time I've ever tried. Only time will tell if I can adapt.

The other alternative is riding indoors on the trainer. That is so incredibly boring to me; I don't see myself sticking to an aggressive training program that relies mostly on the trainer.

I'm hoping to overcome or adapt to these winter riding issues:

  • Dry air wrecks havoc on my skin, lips, eyes and nasal passages. I'm a gulf-coast guy. Humidity is my friend. Within 15-minutes of leaving the house, my lips were chapped, my cheeks wind burnt, and my eyes were tearing up due to the low humidity. I have to find a solution to this, else its trainer time until March for me!

  • I found it difficult to judge exertion levels in colder weather. Breathing in cold, dry air burns my nasal passages, throat and lungs. I can't judge if I'm breathing hard, or it's just painful. My body responds to the cold, dry air by producing tons of mucus which also makes it difficult to breathe. This all conspires to make it difficult to tell just how hard the cardiovascular systems are working.

  • Muscles cramp differently. I hardly ever get muscle cramps - in hot weather. But when I do, it’s from overuse. In the cold, cramps come with under use! I had to stop for a red light and thought I'd be asking for a ride home!

  • Joints stiffen up in different ways, too. I have a bad habit of locking my elbows when riding on the street. In warm weather, I just relax and the stiffness subsides in a couple of seconds. In the cold, the stiffness turns in to a cramp that takes several minutes to alleviate.

  • You don't sweat very much, but still need to drink water! Dehydration is much less obvious. In the dry air you lose a lot of water through the lungs via respiration. I had to constantly remind myself to drink.

  • I need to adjust my heart rate zones for the cold weather - I think. It seems that for an equivalent amount of muscular effort my HR was about 10 beats/minute higher. I'm giving this some time because I need to refine my perceived exertion in the cooler conditions. I'm also curious to see what happens with warmer clothes, too.

  • I can't figure out the clothing issue. I'm not sure what to wear in cold conditions. Wind+bike speed = big wind chill factor. So covering the skin seems to be a solution. However, being sweaty underneath covering clothes doesn't seem like the right solution, either. I've got some experimenting to do here.

Cold weather activity is new territory for me. I'm hopeful that I can come up with solutions to speed adaptation to the conditions. It's going to be a fun winter!